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November 23rd, 2012:

Friday random ten: Black Friday

Taking a short respite from the girls’ name songs to note the event of the day.

1. Black Water – Doobie Brothers
2. Reverend Mr. Black – Kingston Trio
3. Long Black Veil – Dave Matthews
4. Black Horse and the Cherry Tree – KT Tunstall
5. Blue On Black – Kenny Wayne Shepherd
6. Back In Black – Rice MOB
7. Black Crows – honeyhoney
8. Pot Kettle Black – Tilly and the Wall
9. Black Widow – Michelle Shocked
10. Black Coffee In Bed – Squeeze

We’re about getting the Christmas decorations started on the day after Thanksgiving – the girls like to be prompt about these things – so this is not a day of shopping for us. Which is fine by me. And whatever your normal habits are, today is a great day to not shop at Wal-Mart. Back to the decorations for me…

The drought is back

Bad news, y’all.

The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, released this morning, shows that more than three-quarters of Texas is now in at least a “moderate” drought, and nearly half the state is in a “severe” or worse drought.

Now to be clear, conditions are still far better than 13 months ago, when the great 2011 drought peaked. At the time 100 percent of Texas was in a moderate drought, 99 percent in a severe drought, and 88 percent in an exceptional drought.

But conditions have gotten quite a bit worse since May, when the drought was at bay for about half of Texas, including the Houston metro area. Now the majority of greater Houston has returned to drought conditions.

Although November isn’t over, it’s possible Texas could end with its driest October and November period since 1950, says Victor Murphy, a climate specialist with the Southern Region Headquarters of the National Weather Service.

Statewide average rainfall for Texas in November 2012 should be about 0.5 inches versus a normal of nearly 2 inches, he said. That would make the October/November time period total about 1.3 to 1.4 inches, or about 30 percent of the state’s normal of 4.60 inches.

More from the print edition.

The current October-November period may end up being drier than the same period in 2010, when 1.85 inches of rain fell. That launched the state in the great drought of 2011.

“This is not a good way to be moving into winter,” Murphy said.

Also of concern is the latest winter outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which finds that without an El Niño pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean as expected, Texas can no longer look for a wetter-than-normal winter.

The greater Houston region, NOAA says, has an equal chance of above- or below-normal rainfall, and a 40 percent chance of having significantly above-normal temperatures this winter.

Last year’s drought primarily affected Texas and Oklahoma, but this year it has spread to much of the midwestern United States.

More than 60 percent of the contiguous 48 states are gripped by some level of drought, erasing two weeks of improvement, the Drought Monitor reported, with widespread agricultural effects.

We got lucky at the beginning of the year, when winter and spring were far rainier than we had any right to expect. We better hope we get at least some of that luck this winter and spring. Now would be a good time for us all to start conserving water again.

DRT vs OAG

Nothing like a little holiday week controversy.

A blistering report released Tuesday by the Texas attorney general’s office outlines a long list of problems and dysfunctions in the past management of the Alamo by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

In a 38-page report to the Legislature, the attorney general’s office accuses the DRT of misappropriation of state funds; failure to care for the shrine; and improper claims of ownership of “historic artifacts.”

The report points out problems have been mostly with the organization’s leadership, and not the more than 7,000 DRT members who devote “countless volunteer hours” to preservation and education.

“It should be noted that the misconduct detailed in this report is largely attributable to the DRT’s leadership — and that conduct should not detract from the individual DRT members who tirelessly and selflessly served the Alamo for over a century,” the report states.

[…]

The document, posted on the attorney general’s website late Tuesday, summarizes findings from an 18-month investigation of the DRT’s Alamo operations that began in 2010. During that time, the Legislature passed a law transferring Alamo custodianship from the DRT to the Texas General Land Office.

The Daughters, who had been the shrine’s custodian since 1905, remain at the Alamo, providing daily operations under a state contract set to expire in mid-2013. Because the Legislature removed the DRT as custodian, the AG’s office “agreed to refrain from pursuing legal action against the DRT in court,” the report says.

The OAG report is here, and a statement from the DRT about the report is here. I have no dog in this fight, which has been going on since 2010 when now-former DRT member Sarah Reveley first accused the Daughters of mismanaging the Alamo. Texas Monthly had a story on it at the time that you’ll either need to be a subscriber or an owner of the print issue to read; other coverage found via Google is here, here, here, here, here, and here. I just hope that this report leads to a conclusion where everyone is satisfied with the way the Alamo is being managed and maintained.

Is immigration reform likely to happen now?

With President Obama’s victory powered in part by overwhelming support from Latino voters, and a dawning if grudging recognition from the GOP that they can’t continue to alienate this growing segment of the electorate, some kind of deal on immigration reform seems increasingly likely. I still have my doubts, however.

Prominent voices in both parties say immigration was the issue that pushed Hispanic voters away from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and that coming to the middle on the sticky subject is important to winning their support.

“It’s not the main issue with Latinos, but it is the core issue that allows a candidate to either be friendly or unfriendly to the Latino population as a whole,” said Lionel Sosa, a San Antonio Republican consultant who has worked on a number of high-profile campaigns, including Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid and the campaigns of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Latinos’ top issues tend to be things like education, jobs and opportunity, Sosa said.

“If you have a strident, tough immigration policy that seems unfriendly, then it’s very hard to get Latinos to listen to you about anything else,” he said. “If you’re saying that young Latinos who lived here most of their lives … cannot stay, then you are saying, ‘Latino, I don’t really want you around.’”

Obama’s decision to grant temporary work permits to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in the country illegally, a program announced this summer called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, helped make up for his broken promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform, Sosa said.

That position was bolstered this week when Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group released a poll that found 77 percent of Latino voters support deferred action.

[…]

The election results apparently have emboldened Democrats. On Wednesday, Obama predicted an immigration overhaul will happen in his second term.

Not all Republicans are convinced. In a statement this week, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, downplayed the importance of immigration to Hispanic voters.

“The issues of primary importance to Hispanic voters are the economy and jobs,” he said. “The Republican Party needs to make inroads with Hispanic voters by emphasizing our shared interests in job creation and economic growth.

“Hispanics should be treated as the patriotic, values-oriented, and family-minded Americans that they are.”

And Lord knows, if there’s anyone who knows how to treat Hispanics respectfully it’s Lamar Smith, am I right? The reason to be skeptical of anything happening on this front is because there’s still a lot of Lamar Smiths in the GOP, and they’re not interesting in making a deal. Sure, I could be wrong about this, but I’ll believe there’s a reasonable compromised to be reached when I see it.

The good news for Republicans come in the form of rising Hispanic stars like Texas’ Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, and George P. Bush, a nephew of former President George W. Bush who’s said to be considering a run for land commissioner, Sosa said.

Cruz “is our best hope for turning it around, and it’s really primarily up to him in Texas,” Sosa said. “If he carries the banner for fair immigration policies, he could be the leader.”

Um, Lionel? Cruz advocates building a border wall and opposes the DREAM Act, any pathway to citizenship, and the President’s deferred action policy. I hate to tell you this, Lionel, but on matters of immigration Ted Cruz is the problem, not the solution.

There is now a Republican alternative to the DREAM Act out there, but it falls short of the original in some key areas.

According to the Daily Caller, the version would include several steps including applying first for a W-1 visa status, which would allow undocumented youth to attend college or serve in the military. Afterwards, they would be eligible to apply for a four-year non-immigrant work visa dubbed the W-2 visa.

In the next step, they would apply for a permanent visa known as W-3 visa status. As a final resolution, after an undeclared number of years, citizenship “could follow.”

For some DREAM Act advocates, a version that doesn’t offer a pathway to citizenship is a deal breaker.

“As undocumented youth, we will not take anything less than a direct path to citizenship. This is the country we call home and we will assert this position as we move forward,” according to a statement released by Cesar Vargas of the DREAM Action Coalition.

The alternative version would allow undocumented youth to apply if they entered the United States before the age of 14 and no older than 28. It would also require them to attend college or join the military, show good moral standing and keep a felony-free criminal record. That includes no more than one misdemeanor with jail time of more than 30 days.

Yet, Vargas noted in his statement several glitches. He noted that for Dreamers who are interested in serving the country, “the W-1 status does not currently let someone join the military voluntarily, so unless they also amend 10 U.S.C § 504 to allow such persons to enlist, the ACHIEVE Act won’t help much.”

Without a pathway to citizenship, the problem isn’t solved. A bill that leaves the status of millions of people unresolved is not a solution. But at least now there’s a starting point for negotiation, which is more than we’ve had the past couple of years.

This issue should be front and center until a real reform bill gets passed. It doesn’t matter to me if people like Lamar Smith and Ted Cruz see the light and become part of the solution or keep digging their heels in and get run over by reality, as long as the problem gets solved in a humane, compassionate, and forward-thinking fashion. And here’s a reminder from the Spanish-language media that there’s still more to this issue than what’s currently on the table.

A Nov. 8 editorial in Philadelphia’s Spanish-language newspaper Al Día, for example, looks at the limits of the Obama administration’s achievements, from health care to deferred action.

Al Día’s post-election editorial questions “why undocumented immigrants have been wholly precluded from purchasing — with their own money — coverage from insurers in your plan … Further, we wonder why undocumented young adults who are granted deferred action will not be given the ability to purchase health insurance from ACA pools either.”

Have you ever wondered why the Affordable Care Act will still leave millions of people without access to health insurance? It’s because undocumented immigrants and their children were deliberately left out of it. I really don’t expect that problem to be solved at this time, but until it is we can’t truly say we have accomplished immigration reform.